We recently had a pool installed in our back yard and I must say that it is a pure delight. I feel like I am on vacation every time I step out my back door. Having breakfast by the pool on Saturday and Sunday mornings is becoming a habit. Arriving home from work during the week has become a race to see just how quickly I can transform myself and my son into pool attire. I’ve even been know to take a quick dip after my son goes to bed. Yes, we are truly enjoying having our very own pool.
However, my 17 month old son has been struggling with some fear issues when in the pool. I have been patient with him and slowly helping him to feel secure in his life jacket while within my reach. He does really well as long as I am holding him. But the second I let go, he starts crying even though the life jacket is keeping him afloat. I try to keep him entertained so that he will have fun while swimming but it gets so frustrating when all he does is whine and cry the entire time. This was the situation last night in the pool. Finally, I sat him on the step and told him to watch mommy swim. As I was making my way to the other end of the pool (backwards), he boldly stood up; gave me one of those “watch this” smiles; then proceeded to “jump” off the steps into the pool by himself. He didn’t reach for my hands. He didn’t cry. He didn’t whine. He laughed and laughed and laughed.
My son took a leap of faith, literally. I am still in awe of his bravery. Here is a lesson for us all concerning our fears. Make the decision to jump in, feet first, and face them. Believe that you can. Stop thinking about it. Stop whining about it. Stop crying about it and simply jump.
And there he goes, onward bound without even as much as a glance backwards at his mommy. At 16 months of age, his desire for independence is already peeking through (to put it mildly). He doesn’t want me to hold his hand or climb the steps with him. No, he wants to do it all by himself. Where is the “dislike” button for this? “Wait for me,” I beg. “Wait for mommy,” I plead to no avail. The strong desire to “do it on his own” has unraveled me a little. I want him to “need” me. I need him to need me. In a sense, I feel like a love-struck teen age girl chasing after the love of her life. He certainly has me wrapped around his little finger just the same.
I don’t have to ask. I know it’s only going to get worse. He’s going to continue to grow and demand more and more independence. He’s going to need me less and less. And my heart is going to break over and over. I thought I knew what being a mother was all about before I became one. I thought being a mother meant giving bottles, changing diapers, cooking dinner, cleaning, doing laundry, saying yes and mostly saying no. I never factored the emotional equation into motherhood. Sure, I always heard the old saying, “when they’re young, they’ll walk on your toes, but when they’re older, they’ll walk on your heart.” I thought I was safe at least until he turned 16.
An article on Parents’ website refers to this as a <a href=”“>”Toddler’s Declaration of Independence”. The article goes on to describe how my son, as a toddler, is attempting to balance “what he wants to do with what he can do,” and how this is an internal battle for him. I had not really considered this aspect of the power struggle and corresponding temper tantrums until now. Although I doubt it will calm my nerves at the onset of these occurrences, it does give me better insight and understanding of how his little brain operates. (Bless his heart!) Seriously, it must be tough trying to remember that he can’t touch the hot cup of coffee but he can touch the cup of juice. There are so many things to learn and understand that of course there are going to be moments of frustration and struggles between parent and child. However, this “declaration of independence” should have come with a warning label, “may cause excessive weeping and/or screaming”. I’m not ready to begin “letting go” at such an early age. But, ready or not, there he goes.
UPDATE: I just read an incredible post about cultivating a kind, gentle voice. It’s funny how often I’m led to just the right post at just the right time. Considering how much my patience has been tested as a direct result of my toddler’s new found independence, I desperately needed to read this!
Walking on my heart
I’m selling all the chairs in our house! Why not? We never use them? Having a toddler in the house means there is never a chance you will be sitting down. If you’re lucky you might get to sit for a minute or two at dinner. Otherwise, the first time I sit down is when I get in my bed at night after putting my little miracle to bed. I’m not really complaining about it. I’m just being realistic and thought I’d make a little money off of things not used. Okay, I’m being sarcastic. I’m not really going to sell the chairs. Perhaps one day, many, many, many years from now, we’ll use the chairs again.
I sometimes wish my little miracle had happened when I was younger. Being a mother of a toddler at 40 years old is physically exhausting. I consider myself in fairly good physical shape. I can spend 45 minutes on the elliptical machine easy. However, caring for a toddler is more of a workout than the elliptical could ever demand. I would have never believed this until now. Honestly, I have so much more admiration for all you mothers out there. This is the hardest job I’ve ever had. Mother’s are amazing souls! Every single one of you out there deserves recognition for all that you do! I salute you all! (Now, do you need a chair?)